When this movie is made in 1956, one can circumnavigate the globe in a little less than two days. When Jules Verne wrote the story "Around the World in Eighty Days" in 1872, he predicted that one day man could accomplish the task in eighty hours, but which most considered folly to do in eighty days in current times... that is except for people like Englishman Phileas Fogg, a regimented man who believed all it would take is exacting work, the skills he possesses. He just has to make sure a train's schedule meets the required sailing schedule which meets the required coach schedule and so on. As such, he takes up what ends up being the highly publicized £20,000 wager from his fellow members at the London Reform Club to do so, losing the bet which would ruin him financially. Along for the ride is Fogg's new, loyal and devoted valet, the recently arrived Latin immigrant, Passepartout, who possesses unusual skills which could be major assets, but whose all consuming thoughts on the ... Written by
(Mag-optical) (35 mm prints) (1956)|Mono
(optical) (35 mm prints) (re-release prints)|70 mm 6-Track
(70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)|4-Track Stereo
(Perspecta Sound encoding) (35 mm magnetic prints) (1956)
The last line of dialogue is "This is the end". The closing credits then begin with the words WHO WAS SEEN IN WHAT SCENE ... AND WHO DID WHAT. The story is then recapped in 6 minutes of simple, minimally animated cartoon images, allowing the names of the many cast members who each appeared in just one scene to be shown in relation to that scene. Some of the crew credits (WHO DID WHAT) are interspersed with the cast credits. The very last thing shown is the film's title. See more »
Around the World in 80 Days is part comedy and part demonstration of a new wide-screen process. I saw it in its original run at the old Rivoli Theater in New York, where the screen ran from 48th St. to 49th St. People gasped at the size of the screen when the curtains opened, before the film even got underway.
If you watch the new 16x9 DVD on anything less than a 50-inch television, the visual composition and the pacing are absolutely incomprehensible, and you're on your own to seize on the many little things that are there to entertain you. But as a whole, the film loses its reason for being when viewed on a conventional TV.
David Niven is unbeatable as Phileas Fogg, Shirley Maclaine is implausible but slyly humorous as the Princess, Robert Newton appears sober most of the time and hammy all of it as Inspector Fix.
Cantinflas is inexplicable as Passepartout, except perhaps as Mike Todd's attempt to corral the entire Latin American market. The Mexican comedian's English is very shaky; it slows him down, and his clarity comes and goes and makes me wonder if Paul Frees didn't replace a lot of his lines. At any rate, only in the seemingly improvised encounter with Red Skelton at a buffet does Cantinflas do anything remotely humorous, and there he's the straight man.
The cameos are fun, and if you're too young to know who all these geezers are, it's worth it to find out, and use the IMDb to track down the work that made them famous. I remember the shriek the original audience let out when the piano player was revealed to be Frank Sinatra.
Viewing the film now, I was most moved to see Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglan reunited in the engine room of the Henrietta, thirty years after they riveted the industry in "What Price Glory?" Buster Keaton concentrates really hard in his appearance as the train conductor, to excellent effect. A. E. Matthews gives a terrific acting lesson in saying "no" a half a dozen times in a London sequence.
Among the original bettors, locate Ronald Squire with the drooping mustache, hollow nasal baritone, and a slouching relaxation while performing that was a marvel - Rex Harrison publicly admired Ronald Squire's ease on stage all his life. In fact, Squire is so relaxed he makes someone like Dean Martin seem uptight.
So, this film is an unusual case - requiring patience for lots of little joys on the small screen, but making sense only on a large one.
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